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EU Lawmakers Agree to Limit Intra-Schengen Border Checks

Geneva, 27.06.12. Implementation of the project EneXs with fingerprint recognition at the airport in geneva. © European Commission 2012 / Sébastien Féval

Photo © European Commission / Sébastien Féval

EU lawmakers agreed on Thursday, to restrict the initial period for border checks to two months, instead of the current six-month period, as well as shorten the extension period by a year from the current maximum limit of two.

European Parliament members underlined that temporary border checks should only be implemented in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort  measure as these impact the free movement of persons.

Currently under revision, the Schengen Borders Code gives EU states the authority to carry out temporary checks at internal borders within the Schengen area when there is a serious threat to public order or to internal security.

More specifically, it was voted on Thursday, that:

  • the maximum period for border checks is now one year

–   more safeguards must be used if checks are extended

  • the initial period for border controls is now limited to two months

At the same time, the decision requires that Schengen area countries provide a detailed risk assessment if temporary border checks are extended beyond the initial two months. While, subsequent extension of border controls beyond six months requires Commission approval.

“Schengen is one of the EU’s greatest achievements. However, it has been put at serious risk due to ongoing illegal controls at internal borders by six states for more than three years, despite a two-year maximum period. This shows how ambiguous the current rules are and how states misuse and misinterpret them. If we want to save Schengen, we need to put a stop to this and establish clear rules,” said Rapporteur Tanja Fajon.

It should be noted that Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway are currently implementing internal border controls citing “exceptional circumstances” created by the ongoing refugee crisis.

In France, meanwhile, internal border checks are in place due to terrorist threats.

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